World Day for Migrants and Refugees highlights apostolic nature of the church

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Sunday, Sept. 24 marked the 110th commemoration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in our Catholic Church tradition. This commemoration was inaugurated in 1914 by Pope Benedict XV at the peak of immigration from southern and eastern Europe to the United States, Canada and elsewhere. Both sets of my grandparents immigrated from Italy and Poland in 1914-1915 seeking a life of dignity, rooted in faith, family and hard work.

This year Pope Francis has chosen the theme, Free to Migrate – Free to Stay. With this designation the Holy Father is only reminding the nations of the world of Articles 13 and 14 from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights that state: (13) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own and to return to his country. (14) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

In our time the reality and plight of hundreds of millions of immigrants, migrants and refugees, displaced by natural disasters, war and violence, and unyielding conditions of poverty often strain the spiritual and material resources of many nations. However, there have been admirable responses to the waves of the displaced, for example, with Poland’s welcoming of millions of Ukrainians, Lebanon’s reception of Syrians, and in our own country, the daily processing of 1000s of immigrants, refugees and migrants. All of this is best proclaimed in the spirit of Lady Liberty in New York harbor. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, send these the homeless tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp besides the golden door.”

Yet, there are many in every generation of Americans who struggle with the reality of immigration, or who are even hostile toward the waves of migration that have come to our shores and borders. Today, the sheer number of immigrants at our southern border daily strain the resources of the receiving communities and states. The conditions that drive this mass exodus of people from their homelands will not change any time soon and challenge all of us in the United States, especially living on or near the border to respond at the very least, humanely and respectfully.

Recalling St. Paul’s instruction to the Philippians from last Sunday’s second reading, “to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27a) the bar is even higher for a more humane and respectful response from those who are the Lord’s disciples.

The Holy Spirit who unveils the heart and mind of Jesus Christ and his Gospel, can illuminate the path to follow the Lord who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus understood the experience of living in the flesh in everything but sin. (Hebrews 4:15-16) He responded to people’s spiritual and bodily needs with compassion and care.

In the light of the 110th anniversary, on behalf of migrants and refugees; soon after his birth Jesus, Joseph and Mary became refugees in Egypt seeking asylum, running for their lives away from King Herod’s raging paranoia.

Many are on the move today for similar threats to their lives. Throughout his life, Jesus Christ the exile in this world from heaven, had no status in the Roman world and so could be and was crucified. But God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) The mystery of God’s plan of salvation reveals that in the resurrection from the dead “you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one, and has broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility between us.” (Eph 2:13-14)

Therefore, driven by a love that cannot be walled in, and inspired to a mission that does not let anyone be walled out; the church continues to transcend borders, build bridges and build communities that are a sign of God’s presence among us. Moreover, the conviction of our faith that our citizenship is in heaven can transform our earthly allegiances and guide us from otherness to oneness, and from alienation to communion.

Confessing Jesus as Lord, means that Caesar is not. As Christians follow Jesus as Lord, they challenge the deification of money, the idolatry of the state and the glorification of power. Before God all are one. Here is the bulwark against an ideology of racial superiority, here is the challenge to absolute claims of natural or cultural boundaries, here is the basis for all human dignity, including the dignity of strangers in the land, the right of the migrant to cross borders, whether in fleeing danger or seeking opportunity; the obligation to welcome the stranger and to provide refuge and respect. (The Theology of Migration – Daniel G. Goody) This is the biblical vision which is embraced by the universal declaration of human rights.

In 1914 when Pope Benedict XV inaugurated a World Day for Migrants and Refugees, he understood the apostolic nature of the church; the Body of Christ perpetually in motion, a migrant church, sent into the world on the day of Pentecost with missionary zeal, scattered among the nations by persecutions and martyrdom, perennially and faithfully bearing the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ until the Lord comes again. Although we are not of the world because we strive to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, we are in the world and for the world, for the ultimate good of all.

Pope’s travels reach worldly margins

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Pope Francis, furthering the tradition of modern popes, has made pastoral visits around the world. He has gathered millions on the beaches of Brazil and the open fields of the Philippines, and recently, one and a half million pilgrims flocked to Portugal for World Youth Day. But there have been much smaller gatherings that are no less extraordinary. A few years ago, during the pandemic Pope Francis undertook a pastoral visit to the neighboring county of Iraq, the first of its kind, to encourage the suffering church in this war-torn nation, and to pray for peace. In Mosul, formerly occupied by ISIS, the pope proclaimed. “Today, however, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war.” These words echoed around the world.
As September dawned upon the world the Holy Father went much further east than Iraq, flying 10 hours across Asia, even over Chinese airspace to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia to proclaim the Gospel, to celebrate the Eucharist, and to engage government, civic, ecumenical and inter-faith leaders with words of faith, fraternity and solidarity. Immediately upon landing it was obvious that Pope Francis had gone to his beloved margins of our world and our Catholic faith. There were not hundreds of thousands to welcome his motorcade, rather hundreds, like two hundred. At the closing Mass of this pastoral visit in the Steppe Arena in Ulaanbaatar there were an estimated 2,500 hundred in attendance, nearly all of the 1,500 Catholics in Mongolia, along with a 1,000 additional pilgrims from around the world.

However, during this time of Eucharistic renewal, the Pope gave an excellent message regarding all of humanity’s hunger and thirst fulfilled in the Gospel.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

“With the words of the Responsorial Psalm, we prayed: O God, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Ps 63:2) We are that dry land thirsting for fresh water, water that can slake our deepest thirst. Our hearts long to discover the secret of true joy, a joy that even in the midst of existential aridity, can accompany and sustain us. Deep within us, we have an insatiable thirst for happiness; we seek meaning and direction in our lives, a reason for all that we do each day. More than anything, we thirst for love, for only love can truly satisfy us, bring us fulfilment; only love can make us happy, inspire inner assurance and allow us to savor the beauty of life.

“Dear brothers and sisters, the Christian faith is the answer to this thirst; it takes it seriously, without dismissing it or trying to replace it with tranquilizers or surrogates. For in this thirst lies the great mystery of our humanity: it opens our hearts to the living God, the God of love, who comes to meet us and to make us his children, brothers and sisters to one another.”

The culmination of Pope Francis’ homily was the heart of our way of life as the Lord’s disciples.
“This, dear brothers and sisters, is surely the best way: to embrace the cross of Christ. At the heart of Christianity is an amazing and extraordinary message. If you lose your life, if you make it a generous offering in service, if you risk it by choosing to love, if you make it a free gift for others, then it will return to you in abundance, and you will be overwhelmed by endless joy, peace of heart, and inner strength and support; and we need inner peace.”

In his spontaneous remarks at the end of Mass, the Pope made a sublime association between Eucharistic spirituality and the Mongolian language.

“I was reminded that in the Mongolian language the word for ‘thank you’ comes from the verb ‘to rejoice.’”

Indeed, the Mass is our great prayer of thanksgiving as our spirits rejoice in God our Savior who in Jesus Christ poured out his life for us in an act of eternal love. Pope Francis went on to say that “to celebrate Mass in this land brought to my mind the prayer that the Jesuit Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin offered to God exactly a hundred years ago, in the desert of Ordos, not far from here. What was Father Teilhard de Chardin, SJ doing in Mongolia? He was engaged in geological research.”

The Pope recalled that his Jesuit brother fervently desired to celebrate Holy Mass, but lacked bread and wine. So, he composed his “Mass on the World,” expressing his oblation in these words: “Receive, O Lord, this all-embracing host, which your whole creation, moved by your magnetism, offers you at the dawn of this new day.” This priest, often misunderstood, had intuited that “the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world” and is “the living center of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life.”

For the more than 3 million who are not Catholic in Mongolia and to billions around the world, Francis of Rome wove a marvelous pattern with Jesus Christ, through whom and for whom all things were made, (Colossians 1:16) the Eucharist and the world.

Viajes del Papa llegan a “márgenes del mundo”

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
El Papa Francisco, siguiendo la tradición de los papas modernos, ha realizado visitas pastorales por todo el mundo. Ha reunido a millones en las playas de Brasil y los campos abiertos de Filipinas, y recientemente, un millón y medio de peregrinos acudieron en masa a Portugal para la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud. Pero ha habido reuniones mucho más pequeñas que no son menos extraordinarias. Hace unos años, durante la pandemia, el Papa Francisco realizó una visita pastoral al condado vecino de Irak, la primera de su tipo, para animar a la Iglesia y orar por la paz, en esta nación que sufre devastada por la guerra. En Mosul, antiguamente ocupada por ISIS, el Papa proclamó: “Hoy, sin embargo, reafirmamos nuestra convicción de que la fraternidad es más duradera que el fratricidio, que la esperanza es más poderosa que el odio, que la paz es más poderosa que la guerra.” Estas palabras resonaron en todo el mundo.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Cuando septiembre amaneció sobre el mundo, el Santo Padre viajó mucho más al este que Irak, volando 10 horas a través de Asia, incluso sobre el espacio aéreo chino hasta Ulaanbaatar, la capital de Mongolia, para proclamar el Evangelio, celebrar la Eucaristía y comprometerse con el gobierno, la sociedad cívica y los líderes ecuménicos e interreligiosos con palabras de fe, fraternidad y solidaridad.

Inmediatamente después de aterrizar, era obvio que el Papa Francisco se había ido a sus amadas márgenes de nuestro mundo y de nuestra fe católica. No fueron cientos de miles para recibir su caravana, sino como doscientos. A la Misa de clausura de esta visita pastoral en el Steppe Arena de Ulán Bator asistieron aproximadamente 2,500 personas, casi todos los 1,500 católicos de Mongolia, junto con 1,000 peregrinos adicionales de todo el mundo.

Sin embargo, durante este tiempo de renovación eucarística, el Papa dio un excelente mensaje sobre el hambre y la sed de toda la humanidad cumplidas en el Evangelio.

Con las palabras del Salmo responsorial oramos: “¡Dios mío, tú eres mi Dios! Con ansias te busco, pues tengo sed de ti; mi ser entero te desea, cual tierra árida, sedienta, sin agua.” (Sal 63:2) Somos esa tierra seca sedienta de agua dulce, agua que pueda saciar nuestra sed más profunda. Nuestro corazón anhela descubrir el secreto de la verdadera alegría, una alegría que incluso en medio de la aridez existencial, pueda acompañarnos y sostenernos. En lo profundo de nosotros tenemos una sed insaciable de felicidad; buscamos significado y dirección en nuestras vidas, una razón para todo lo que hacemos cada día. Más que nada, tenemos sed de amor, porque sólo el amor puede verdaderamente satisfacernos y brindarnos plenitud; sólo el amor puede hacernos felices, inspirar seguridad interior y permitirnos saborear la belleza de la vida.

“Queridos hermanos y hermanas, la fe cristiana es la respuesta a esta sed; lo toma en serio, sin descartarlo ni intentar sustituirlo por tranquilizantes o sustitutos. Porque en esta sed reside el gran misterio de nuestra humanidad: abre nuestro corazón al Dios vivo, el Dios de amor, que viene a nuestro encuentro y nos hace hijos suyos, hermanos y hermanas unos de otros.”

La culminación de la homilía del Papa Francisco fue el corazón de nuestra forma de vida como discípulos del Señor.

“Este, queridos hermanos y hermanas, es seguramente el mejor camino: abrazar la cruz de Cristo. En el corazón del cristianismo hay un mensaje asombroso y extraordinario. Si pierdes tu vida, si la conviertes en una generosa ofrenda de servicio, si la arriesgas eligiendo amar, si la conviertes en un regalo gratuito para los demás, entonces volverá a ti en abundancia y serás abrumado por alegría infinita, paz de corazón, fuerza y apoyo interior; y nosotros necesitamos paz interior.”

En sus espontáneas palabras al final de la Misa, el Papa hizo una asociación sublime entre la espiritualidad eucarística y la lengua mongol. “Me acordé de que en el idioma mongol la palabra “gracias” proviene del verbo “regocijarse.”

De hecho, la Misa es nuestra gran oración de acción de gracias mientras nuestros espíritus se regocijan en Dios nuestro Salvador, quien en Jesucristo derramó su vida por nosotros en un acto de amor eterno.
El Papa Francisco continuó diciendo que “celebrar Misa en esta tierra me recordó la oración que el padre jesuita Pierre Teilhard de Chardin ofreció a Dios hace exactamente cien años, en el desierto de Ordos, no lejos de aquí. ¿Qué hacía el Padre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ en Mongolia? Se dedicaba a la investigación geológica”.

El Papa recordó que su hermano jesuita deseaba fervientemente celebrar la Santa Misa, pero le faltaba pan y vino. Así, compuso su “Misa sobre el Mundo”, expresando su oblación con estas palabras: “Recibe, oh Señor, esta hostia omni abarcante que toda tu creación, movida por tu magnetismo, te ofrece en la aurora de este nuevo día.” Este sacerdote, a menudo incomprendido, había intuido que “la Eucaristía siempre se celebra de alguna manera en el altar del mundo” y es “el centro vivo del universo, el núcleo rebosante de amor y de vida inagotable.”

Para los más de 3 millones que no son católicos en Mongolia y para miles de millones en todo el mundo, Francisco de Roma tejió un patrón maravilloso con Jesucristo, por quien, y para quien todas las cosas fueron hechas, (Colosenses 1:16), la Eucaristía y el mundo.

All are welcome

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

“Todos, Todos, Todos” was Pope Francis’ heartfelt declaration during World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal earlier this month. This Spanish mantra states that all are welcome, the baptized especially, to come into the presence of God within the Catholic Church to know the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

Young and older, from nearly every nation on the planet were on hand to celebrate with the successor of Peter, the Servant of the Servants of our merciful God. What a marvelous manifestation of the church’s identity and mission in Lisbon, encapsulated as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, the focus of our own pastoral reimagining. This universal vision for the church begun on the first Pentecost, actually began to emerge early in the Old Testament. However, it came to fulfillment in the life-giving death and resurrection of the Lord, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But the Cross reminds us that this vision of unity among all the nations in the church labors to run its course and requires repentance, conversion and sacrifice to overcome the sin that sows division.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

The Canaanite woman of last Sunday’s Gospel is an excellent point of departure to look back into the wellspring of the Old Testament. Her unexpected and anguished plea to Jesus on behalf of her possessed daughter began with the greeting, “Lord, son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus was actually speechless for a moment over this pagan woman’s clear grasp of his identity. Respecting her courage and faith, he reminded her of the Israelite attitude and prejudice toward foreigners that “it is not right to take the food of the household and give it to the dogs.”

“But even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table” was the desperate woman’s retort. The Lord responded in awe over her faith, and in that instant this “unclean woman’s” daughter was healed. This is a fascinating encounter with the Lord that challenges us to go deeper in our knowledge and understanding of God’s will. The Old Testament holds this key.
The Book of Ruth is a parable, a narrative that confronted the harsh policies of the Israelites in the time of Ezra as they returned home from exile. (Ezra 10) Basically, Ezra was directing the Israelites to leave their foreign wives where they found them because they had been unfaithful to the Covenant.
In this mindset God does not want the blood of foreigners polluting the chosen people’s lineage. Really! Enter the Book of Ruth. It is an endearing story of a Moabite women, a pagan, who chose to return to the land of Israel with her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth’s words are forever enshrined in our biblical memory. “Wherever you go, I shall go. Wherever you live, I shall live. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God. Wherever you die, I wish to die, and so be buried beside you.” (Ruth 1:16-17) The hand of providence placed Ruth in the direct line of the story of salvation as the great-grandmother of King David from whose lineage came the Messiah, the Son of David. The seeds of universality were already sprouting even before King David sat on the throne of Israel.

There is nothing subtle or hidden about Isaiah’s prophecy in last Sunday’s first reading as he anticipates the Great Commission of the Lord at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. “My house will be a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7) All who are righteous are invited to the banquet of God’s love. “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines.” (25:6)

The story of the prophet Jonah is another masterpiece of God’s plan for universal salvation. His preaching prompted the citizens of Nineveh, from the King on down, to sincere repentance. As it turns out, Jonah deeply resented God’ action in granting mercy to the hated Assyrians who had destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel. Too bad for Jonah. The prophet’s three days in the belly of the fish prefigured the Lord’s three days in the tomb and his resurrection from the dead, the final step in the plan of universal salvation. The letter to the Ephesians captures the essence of the Lord’s sacrifice.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. And in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” (Eph 2:13,16-17)

In our own time, we need to put to death hostility wherever it rears its ugly head and hear the call of the Gospel that rings true in the words of Pope Francis at World Youth Day. Todos, Todos, Todos. This, of course, is the great commission of the Lord “to make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19) one person, one family, one community, one nation at a time. With the invitation comes the call to repentance, conversion and change with the same attitude of Peter, the first pope, after Jesus had invited himself into his boat. Peter, overwhelmed by God’s grace with the enormous catch of fish exclaimed, “leave me Lord for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8)

Our diocese is blessed with the faithful from many nations, a truly Catholic presence. In light of the above, we can say that a welcoming attitude, faith, prayer, compassion, repentance and conversion are ever-ancient and ever-new components on the journey of salvation. Even though our efforts may seem meager at times, now and then even a scrap that falls from the Master’s table is enough to start the feast.

Pope Francis signals that hundreds of thousands of young people are not loud enough after he asks them to repeat that there is space for everyone in the church. The pope’s remarks came at the World Youth Day welcome ceremony at Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 3, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“Todos Todos Todos”

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“Todos, Todos, Todos” fue la emotiva declaración del Papa Francisco durante la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud en Lisboa, Portugal, a principios de este mes. Este mantra español establece que todos son bienvenidos, especialmente los bautizados, para venir a la presencia de Dios dentro de la Iglesia Católica para conocer el amor transformador de Jesucristo.
Jóvenes y mayores, de casi todas las naciones del planeta, estaban presentes para celebrar con el sucesor de Pedro, el Siervo de los Siervos de nuestro Dios misericordioso. Qué maravillosa manifestación de la identidad y misión de la iglesia en Lisboa, encapsulada como Una, Santa, Católica y Apostólica, el centro de nuestra propia reinvención pastoral.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Esta visión universal de la iglesia que comenzó en el primer Pentecostés, en realidad comenzó a surgir a principios del Antiguo Testamento. Sin embargo, llegó a su cumplimiento en la muerte y resurrección vivificante del Señor, y en el derramamiento del Espíritu Santo. Pero la Cruz nos recuerda que esta visión de unidad entre todas las naciones en la iglesia se esfuerza por seguir su curso y requiere arrepentimiento, conversión y sacrificio para vencer el pecado que siembra división.
La mujer cananea del evangelio del domingo pasado es un excelente punto de partida para mirar hacia el manantial del Antiguo Testamento. Su súplica inesperada y angustiada a Jesús en favor de su hija poseída comenzó con el saludo: “Señor, hijo de David, ten piedad de mí.” Jesús se quedó sin palabras por un momento ante la clara comprensión de su identidad por parte de esta mujer pagana. Respetando su valentía y fe, le recordó la actitud y el prejuicio de los israelitas hacia los extranjeros de que “No está bien tomar el pan de los hijos, y echárselo a los perros.” … “Sí, Señor; pero también los perros comen de las migajas que caen de la mesa de sus amos.” fue la réplica desesperada de la mujer. El Señor respondió con asombro por su fe, y en ese instante, la hija de esta “mujer inmunda” fue sanada. Este es un encuentro fascinante con el Señor que nos desafía a profundizar en nuestro conocimiento y comprensión de la voluntad de Dios. El Antiguo Testamento tiene esta clave.
El Libro de Rut es una parábola, una narración que confrontó las duras políticas de los israelitas en la época de Esdras cuando regresaban a casa del exilio. (Esdras 10) Básicamente, Esdras estaba ordenando a los israelitas que dejaran a sus esposas extranjeras donde las encontraron porque habían sido infieles al Pacto.
En esta mentalidad, Dios no quiere que la sangre de extranjeros contamine el linaje del pueblo elegido. ¡En realidad! Entra en el Libro de Rut. Es una historia entrañable de una mujer moabita, pagana, que eligió regresar a la tierra de Israel con su suegra judía, Noemí. Las palabras de Ruth están guardadas para siempre en nuestra memoria bíblica. “…adonde tú vayas, iré yo, y donde tú mores, moraré. Tu pueblo será mi pueblo y tu Dios, mi Dios. Donde tú mueras, allí moriré, y allí seré sepultada.” (Rut 1:16-17) La mano de la providencia colocó a Rut en la línea directa de la historia de la salvación como la bisabuela del Rey David de cuyo linaje vino el Mesías, el Hijo de David. Las semillas de la universalidad ya estaban brotando incluso antes de que el rey David se sentara en el trono de Israel.
No hay nada sutil u oculto en la profecía de Isaías en la primera lectura del domingo pasado, ya que anticipa la Gran Comisión del Señor al final del Evangelio de Mateo. “…mi casa será llamada casa de oración para todos los pueblos.” (Isaías 56:7) Todos los justos están invitados al banquete del amor de Dios. “Y el Señor de los ejércitos preparará en este monte para todos los pueblos un banquete de manjares suculentos, un banquete de vino añejo, pedazos escogidos con tuétano y vino añejo refinado.” (Isaías 25:6)
La historia del profeta Jonás es otra obra maestra del plan de Dios para la salvación universal. Su predicación motivó a los ciudadanos de Nínive, desde el rey para abajo, al arrepentimiento sincero. Resulta que Jonás se resintió profundamente por la acción de Dios al otorgar misericordia a los odiados asirios que habían destruido el Reino del norte de Israel. Muy mal por Jonás. Los tres días del profeta en el vientre del pez prefiguraron los tres días del Señor en la tumba y su resurrección de entre los muertos, el paso final en el plan de salvación universal. La carta a los Efesios capta la esencia del sacrificio del Señor.
“Pero ahora en Cristo Jesús, vosotros, que en otro tiempo estabais lejos, habéis sido acercados por la sangre de Cristo… y para reconciliar con Dios a los dos en un cuerpo por medio de la cruz, habiendo dado muerte en ella a la enemistad. Vino y anunció Paz a Vosotros que estabais lejos y Paz a los que estaban cerca.” (Efesios 2:13, 16-17)
En nuestro propio tiempo, necesitamos acabar con la hostilidad dondequiera que asoma su fea cabeza y escuchar el llamado del Evangelio que suena verdadero en las palabras del Papa Francisco en la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud. Todos, Todos, Todos. Esta, por supuesto, es la gran comisión del Señor de “Id, pues, y haced discípulos de todas las naciones.” (Mateo 28:19), una persona, una familia, una comunidad, una nación a la vez.
Con la invitación viene el llamado al arrepentimiento, a la conversión y al cambio con la misma actitud de Pedro, el primer Papa, después de que Jesús mismo se invitó a subir a su barca. Pedro, abrumado por la gracia de Dios con la enorme captura de peces, exclamó: “¡Apártate de mí, Señor, ¡porque soy un pecador!” (Lucas 5:8)
Nuestra diócesis está bendecida con fieles de muchas naciones, una presencia verdaderamente católica. A la luz de lo anterior, podemos decir que la actitud de acogida, la fe, la oración, la compasión, el arrepentimiento y la conversión son componentes siempre antiguos y siempre nuevos en el camino de la salvación. A pesar que nuestros esfuerzos, a veces, pueden parecer escasos, de vez en cuando incluso, una migaja que cae de la mesa del Maestro es suficiente para comenzar la fiesta.

Occasion of the 100th anniversary of St. Augustine Seminary

Editor’s note: Below is the homily, Bishop Joseph Kopacz gave on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of St. Augustine Seminary on Saturday, June 24 at Sacred Heart parish in Greenville.
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By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

The Great Commission of the Lord Jesus to make disciples of all the nations, through teaching and baptizing, was embraced by St. Father Arnold Jansen the founder of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) established on Sept. 8, 1875.

We proclaimed the Great Commission in the Gospel this morning and throughout the past nearly 148 years the Society of the Divine Word has pitched their tent, (to apply the phrase from the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel about the Son of God) in approximately 70 countries, and now number 6,000 priests and brothers, the largest religious order in the Catholic Church.

The Great Commission of the Lord Jesus is the culmination of the four Gospels before he ascended into heaven. Today we heard from Matthew. We could easily have heard from Mark, Luke and John. “Go into the world and preach the Gospel to all creatures.” (Mark 16:15) “Go into the city of Jerusalem and wait to be clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) “As the Father has sent me so I send you. Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:20)

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

St. Father Jansen prophetically lived by the motto that “announcing the Gospel is the first and greatest act of charity.” He provided this vision for the Society of the Divine Word in the following excerpts from his writings.
“The ultimate purpose of our mission today is the same as it has been since the time of our founder, ‘to proclaim the Kingdom of God’s love’ as the common destiny of all humanity and the horizon toward which we travel.”

“It is from the internal loving dialogue of the triune God that this mission emerges, a dialogue of love and forgiveness with all humanity. We do not invent our own mission – it is Missio Dei – we are called by the Father, sent by the Word, and led by the Spirit.”

I would be remiss to pass over the impact of Father Janssen’s family life on his faith formation, vocation and ultimate vision for the Society of the Divine Word. Gerhard and Anna Katharina Janssen, his parents were people of great faith and lived the domestic church at the highest level.

Father Arnold Janssen’s father was blessed with eyes that saw, and ears that heard God’s Word while putting it into practice. He had a great love for the Trinity, and for the sacred scriptures, and steadfastly built a house set on rock for his son Arnold, the second of 10 children.

From the writings of members of the Society of the Divine Word, we are given four charisms or characteristics for their world-wide religious community. “Many religious orders and congregations have certain characteristics or traits that make them known. We are recognized by the four characteristic dimensions: the Bible; Mission Animation; Justice and Peace; and Integrity of Creation.”

In part, the commitment to justice and peace led the Society of the Divine Word to the Deep South and to Mississippi at the turn of the 20th century. One of their singular accomplishments was to launch Sacred Heart seminary in 1920, the first school for African American candidates for the priesthood in the United States.

This was an intrepid accomplishment in the Delta of Mississippi in the environs of Jim Crow. In fact, after a few years it became obvious that the seminary would have a better chance of surviving and thriving if the SVDs relocated it to Bay Saint Louis, where there were far more Catholics and resources. Understand that at the time the Diocese of Jackson encompassed all of Mississippi. In 1923 the change occurred, and the seminary was renamed to St. Augustine.

GREENVILLE – Bishop Joseph Kopacz delievers his homily at Sacred Heart parish on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of St. Augustine Seminary. See accompanying story on page 17. (Photo by Sister Amelia Breton, SBS)

We are here today to acknowledge that although the 100th anniversary celebration of the seminary will be celebrated later this year, its beginnings were at Sacred Heart on these grounds. At the time the Society of the Divine Word had not yet reached the half century mark since its founding which only adds to this remarkable endeavor to go to all the nations.

Blessings to all who are part of the Society of the Divine Word, and much gratitude for your continuing presence in the Diocese of Jackson, now for well over 100 years. I conclude with a heartfelt yearning and a personal prayer from the personal spirituality of St. Father Arnold Janssens.

“May the darkness of sin and the night of unbelief vanish before the Light of the Word and the Spirit of Grace and may the heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all.”

O God, eternal truth, I believe in you.
O God, our strength and salvation, I trust in you.
O God, infinite goodness, I love you with my whole heart.

“Prayer of thanksgiving” for priests of the Sacred Heart

Editor’s note: Below is the homily, Bishop Kopacz gave at the Feast of the Sacred Heart on Friday, June 16 at Christ the King parish in Southaven.
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By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

We gather joyfully at the Eucharist, the great prayer of thanksgiving, as we mark the hundred anniversary of the arrival of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in the United States, and 80 years here in northern Mississippi, known as the Southern Missions. Father Hendrick “Ardi” Ardianto, SCJ informed me before Mass that it is also the 100th anniversary of the Sacred Heart Fathers in Indonesia where their mission continues to thrive. This beloved and dynamic religious order, founded in 1878 by the Venerable Father Leon John Dehon whose missionary desire was to diffuse far and wide the Sacred Heart of Jesus, remains faithful to Christ’s work of rebuilding our world into God’s kingdom of justice and love.

I stand with the Bishops of Jackson since 1944 when Bishop Richard Oliver Gerow invited the Sacred Heart Fathers to expand their mission and ministries in the United States to northern Mississippi. This was a fortuitous moment in the history of the Diocese of Natchez. For the past 80 years the SCJ’s have witnessed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through worship, through education, and through social action on behalf of justice and the common good which is evident in the array of ministries that continue to rebuild God’s kingdom of justice and love.

On this feast of the Sacred Heart the biblical texts draw us more deeply into the height and depth, length and breadth of God’s love. From Deuteronomy we heard that God set his heart on Israel, and his compassion and mercy will endure over 1,000 generations.

Jesus in the Gospel of Luke assures his listeners, then and now, that he is “meek and humble of heart, and we will find rest in him.” Here together at the Eucharist we are yoked to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a people set apart in praise of God “who has loved us first,” in the words of St. John in the second reading.
In this year of Eucharistic revival in our nation let us cherish the words of Father Dehon in our celebration of faith. “When we adore the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist, our adoration does not always require many words; there are moments when silence itself is eloquent. Our heart must become a ciborium in which the Eucharistic Heart alone reposes. I leave you the most wonderful of treasures, the Heart of Jesus.”

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Father Dehon inspires us to embrace the awesome mystery of the real presence of the Lord. “All the sacraments are marvelous gifts of our Lord, but the Eucharist far surpasses the others. For in the others, he gives us his grace; in the Eucharist, he gives us himself.”

Pope Benedict, in Sacramentum Caritatis, (2007) the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, captures this Dehonian charism of the Eucharist as bread broken for the life of the world. “The bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (Jn 6:51)

Pope Benedict wrote that in these words “the Lord reveals the true meaning of the gift of his life for all people. These words also reveal his deep compassion for every man and woman. The Gospels frequently speak of Jesus’ feelings towards others, especially the suffering and sinners… Our communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become ‘bread that is broken’ for others, and to work for the building of a more just and fraternal world. Keeping in mind the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, we need to realize that Christ continues today to exhort his disciples to become personally engaged. ‘You yourselves, give them something to eat.’ (Mt 14:16). Each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world.”

This is the Dehonian spirit that continues to inspire many in our time through the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Through the world-wide synodal process, Pope Francis has invited the People of God to embrace our identity through communion, participation and mission. From the water and blood that flowed from the pierced heart of Christ on the Cross, our communion flows from our Baptism and through the Eucharist. We are invited into active participation around the tables of God’s Word and Sacrament, and from this source and summit we are sent on mission to actively participate in the drama of the Kingdom of God. This Dehonian charism is alive on both fronts, so to speak, as a people of contemplation in worship, and as a people of action in an array of ministries.

At this time, I invite the priest and brothers of the Sacred Heart, as well as the lay associates to come forward to renew their commitments to serve the Lord in his Kingdom of justice and love.

(To learn more about the work of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in our diocese with their ministry Sacred Heart Southern Missions, visit

“Oración de acción de gracias” por sacerdotes del Sagrado Corazón

Nota del editor: A continuación se encuentra la homilía que el obispo Kopacz pronunció en la Fiesta del Sagrado Corazón el viernes 16 de junio en la parroquia de Christ the King en Southaven. Para asegurarse de no perderse la columna del obispo Kopacz y otras noticias católicas importantes, únase a nuestra lista de correo electrónico en Flocknote. ¡Envíe un mensaje de texto con MSCATHOLIC al 84576 o regístrese en!

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Nos reunimos con gozo en la Eucaristía, la gran oración de acción de gracias, al conmemorar el centenario de la llegada de los Sacerdotes del Sagrado Corazón a los Estados Unidos, y los 80 años aquí en el norte de Mississippi, conocido como las Misiones del Sur.
El Padre Hendrick “Ardi” Ardianto, SCJ me informó antes de la Misa que también es el centenario de los Padres del Sagrado Corazón en Indonesia, donde su misión continúa prosperando. Esta amada y dinámica orden religiosa, fundada en 1878 por el Venerable Padre Leo John Dehon, cuyo deseo misionero era difundir por todas partes el Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, permanece fiel a la obra de Cristo de reconstruir nuestro mundo en el reino de justicia y amor de Dios.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Yo me uno a los obispos de Jackson, desde que en 1944 el obispo Richard Oliver Gerow invitó a los Padres del Sagrado Corazón a expandir su misión y ministerios en los Estados Unidos hasta el norte de Mississippi. Este fue un momento fortuito en la historia de la Diócesis de Natchez. Durante los últimos 80 años, los SCJ han dado testimonio del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús a través de la adoración, la educación y la acción social en nombre de la justicia y el bien común, lo cual es evidente en la variedad de ministerios que continúan reconstruyendo el reino de Dios de justicia y amor.
En esta fiesta del Sagrado Corazón, los textos bíblicos nos introducen más profundamente en la altura y la profundidad, la longitud y la anchura del amor de Dios. En Deuteronomio escuchamos que Dios puso su corazón en Israel, y su compasión y misericordia perdurarán por 1,000 generaciones.
Jesús en el Evangelio de Lucas asegura a sus oyentes, entonces y ahora, que él es “manso y humilde de corazón, y hallaremos descanso en él”. Aquí juntos en la Eucaristía estamos unidos al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús como pueblo apartado en alabanza a Dios “que nos ha amado primero”, en palabras de San Juan en la segunda lectura.
En este año de renacimiento eucarístico, en nuestra nación atesoremos las palabras del Padre Léon Dehon en nuestra celebración de la fe.
“Cuando adoramos al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús en la Eucaristía, nuestra adoración no siempre requiere muchas palabras; hay momentos en que el mismo silencio es elocuente. Nuestro corazón debe convertirse en copón en el que sólo reposa el Corazón Eucarístico. Os dejo el más maravilloso de los tesoros, el Corazón de Jesús”.
El Padre Dehon nos inspira a abrazar el asombroso misterio de la presencia real del Señor. “Todos los sacramentos son dones maravillosos de nuestro Señor, pero la Eucaristía supera con mucho a los demás. Porque en los demás nos da su gracia; en la Eucaristía se nos da El mismo”.
El Papa Benedicto, en Sacramentum Caritatis, (2007), la Exhortación Apostólica Post-Sinodal sobre la Eucaristía, capta este carisma dehoniano de la Eucaristía como pan partido para la vida del mundo. “El pan que yo daré es mi propia carne. Lo daré por la vida del mundo.” (Jn 6:51)
El Papa Benedicto escribió que en estas palabras “el Señor revela el verdadero significado del don de su vida para todas las personas. Estas palabras también revelan su profunda compasión por cada hombre y mujer. … Los Evangelios hablan con frecuencia de los sentimientos de Jesús hacia los demás, especialmente hacia los que sufren y los pecadores… Nuestras comunidades, cuando celebran la Eucaristía, deben ser cada vez más conscientes de que el sacrificio de Cristo es para todos, y que la Eucaristía obliga así a todos los que creen en que se convierta en ‘pan que se parte’ para los demás, y que trabaje por la construcción de un mundo más justo y fraterno. Teniendo en cuenta la multiplicación de los panes y los peces, debemos darnos cuenta de que Cristo continúa hoy exhortando a sus discípulos a comprometerse personalmente. ‘Vosotros mismos dadles de comer.’ (Mt 14:16) Cada uno de nosotros está verdaderamente llamado, junto con Jesús, a ser pan partido para la vida del mundo”.
Este es el espíritu dehoniano que sigue inspirando a muchos en nuestro tiempo a través del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús.
A través del proceso sinodal mundial, el Papa Francisco ha invitado al Pueblo de Dios a abrazar nuestra identidad a través de la comunión, la participación y la misión. Del agua y la sangre que manaron del corazón traspasado de Cristo en la Cruz, nuestra comunión brota de nuestro Bautismo y a través de la Eucaristía. Estamos invitados a la participación activa alrededor de las mesas de la Palabra y el Sacramento de Dios, y desde esta fuente y cumbre, somos enviados en una misión para participar activamente en el drama del Reino de Dios. Este carisma dehoniano está vivo en ambos frentes, por así decirlo, como pueblo de contemplación en el culto y como pueblo de acción en una variedad de ministerios.
En este momento, invito al sacerdote y a los hermanos del Sagrado Corazón, así como a los laicos asociados, a pasar al frente para renovar sus compromisos de servir al Señor en su Reino de justicia y amor.

Pastoral reimagining and beyond

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

We are happy to announce the start of our diocesan pastoral plan that we have named Pastoral Reimagining to begin on Pentecost Sunday in two weeks and culminate on Pentecost Sunday, 2024. The overarching theme is: “There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, and one God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4:5-6) Like the Synod on Synodality, it is intended to be a user-friendly and diocesan-wide process that is centered on the four marks of the church: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. At the outset, it is notable to see the interconnection between the process of the Synod on Synodality and the four marks of the church that we proclaim in the Nicene Creed at Masses of Sunday obligation throughout our Catholic world.

We recall that the theme of the world-wide Synod on Synodality is Communion – Participation – Mission. Pope Francis gave us this lens to rediscover the nature and mission of the church in the modern world. However, it is a standard that is ever ancient and ever new. The Nicene Creed in 325 AD taught that the Church is One – Holy – Catholic – Apostolic and within this belief the harmony with the Synodal theme is straightaway apparent. This is the nature and mission of the Catholic Church that did not just emerge in 325 AD but was there from the beginning at the first Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit reveals that God is one, and that the Good News of Jesus Christ is intended for the entire world.

In this light, our pastoral reimagining is building upon the work of the Synod on Synodality which produced good fruit in our diocese. Once again, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to bless and guide us in our willingness to cooperate with God’s grace in a spirit of renewal. The good fruit of the Synod process is contained in our diocesan synthesis that expresses the results of prayer, scripture, and conversation from over a one thousand people from around the diocese. (View the synthesis here: Pastoral reimagining will allow each parish and mission to take a more direct and intentional look at the reality of their community in the spirit of Synodality in the aftermath of the pandemic.

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz films a video message for the upcoming pastoral reimaging process on Monday, May 8. The reimagining process for the diocese builds upon the work of the Synod on Synodality and begins at Pentecost. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)

There will be four stages for the pastoral reimagining process over the course of one year, framed by the feast of Pentecost this year and next. The first stage will be the foundation upon which we take a deeper dive into the nature and mission of the church as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

How? Briefly, we have created four videos in English and in Spanish of approximately 20 minutes in length, with discussion questions for each of the four productions. They will be available on Pentecost, and going forward they will be widely distributed throughout the diocese. Each pastor and/or Lay Ecclesial Minister is to form a core group in their parish community to work with these videos as the foundation for the year ahead. Calling upon the Holy Spirit we pray that each parish will be encouraged, as well as challenged to be whom God calls us to be. All parishes will also receive their own input from our diocesan Synod process to add to the discussion. This first stage should be undertaken during an opportune time frame over the next few months and be completed by late summer or early autumn.

In the early fall of this year, a thorough report of the demographics of our diocese, including the religious and Catholic populations, will be available for the core team, as well as for all of the faithful throughout the diocese. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) will be the source for this research. Stage two without a doubt will enrich the local conversations as the One – Holy – Catholic – Apostolic process coalesces with current demographics and researched based future projections.

Briefly, the third stage in the early part of next year will be deanery gatherings in the six regions of our diocese to develop a synthesis that best captures the reality of our diocese in each region.
During the fourth stage in the spring of 2024, a diocesan core team and I will have the opportunity to examine and take to heart all that comes from the six deaneries. By God’s grace, a pastoral letter will be the good fruit of this process that will be “a lamp for our feet and a light on our path” (Psalm 119:105) for pastoral reimagining and planning.

I am excited over the possibilities for this diocesan endeavor, and may the Lord prosper the work of our hearts and minds and grant us a year of favor in the spirit of Pentecost.

Reinvención Pastoral Diocesana

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

JACKSON – Estamos felices de anunciar el inicio de nuestro plan pastoral diocesano. Le hemos llamado Reinvención Pastoral para comenzar el domingo de Pentecostés, en dos semanas y para culminarlo el domingo de Pentecostés de 2024. El tema general de este plan pastoral diocesano es: “Hay un Señor, una fe, un bautismo y un Dios y Padre de todos”. “Hay un solo Señor, una sola fe, un solo bautismo; hay un solo Dios y Padre de todos, que está sobre todos, actúa por medio de todos y está en todos. (Efesios 4:5-6)

Al igual que el Sínodo sobre la Sinodalidad pretende ser un proceso fácil de usar para toda la diócesis y estará centrado en las cuatro marcas de la iglesia: Una, Santa, Católica y Apostólica. Al principio, es notable ver la interconexión entre el proceso del Sínodo sobre la Sinodalidad y las cuatro marcas de la iglesia que proclamamos en el Credo de Nicea, en las Misas de precepto dominical en todo nuestro mundo católico.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Recordamos que el tema del Sínodo mundial sobre la Sinodalidad es Comunión – Participación – Misión. El Papa Francisco nos dio este lente para redescubrir la naturaleza y la misión de la iglesia en el mundo moderno. Sin embargo, es un estándar que es siempre antiguo y siempre nuevo.

El Credo de Nicea en el año 325 d.C. enseñaba que la Iglesia es una, santa, católica, apostólica y dentro de esta creencia, la armonía con el tema sinodal es evidente de inmediato. Esta es la naturaleza y la misión de la Iglesia Católica que no solo surgió en el año 325 d.C. sino que estuvo allí desde el principio en el primer Pentecostés. El don del Espíritu Santo revela que Dios es uno y que la Buena Noticia de Jesucristo está destinada al mundo entero.
Bajo esta luz, nuestra reinvención pastoral se basa en el trabajo del Sínodo sobre la Sinodalidad que produjo buenos frutos en nuestra diócesis. Una vez más, permitimos que el Espíritu Santo nos bendiga y guíe en nuestra voluntad de cooperar con la gracia de Dios en un espíritu de renovación.

El buen fruto del proceso del Sínodo está contenido en nuestra síntesis diocesana que expresa los resultados de la oración, las Escrituras y las conversaciones de más de mil personas de toda la diócesis. (Ver la síntesis aquí: La reinvención pastoral permitirá que cada parroquia y misión tenga una mirada más directa e intencional a la realidad de su comunidad en el espíritu de sinodalidad después de la pandemia.

Habrá cuatro etapas para el proceso de reinvención pastoral en el transcurso de un año, enmarcado por la fiesta de Pentecostés este año y el próximo. La primera etapa será la base sobre la cual profundizaremos en la naturaleza y misión de la Iglesia como Una, Santa, Católica y Apostólica.

¿Cómo? Brevemente, hemos creado cuatro videos en inglés y en español de aproximadamente 20 minutos de duración, con preguntas de discusión para cada una de las cuatro producciones. Estarán disponibles en Pentecostés y, en el futuro, se distribuirán ampliamente en toda la diócesis. Cada párroco y/o ministro eclesial laico debe formar un grupo central en su comunidad parroquial para trabajar con estos videos como base para el próximo año. Invocando al Espíritu Santo, oramos para que cada parroquia sea animada, así como desafiada a ser quien Dios nos llama a ser. Todas las parroquias también recibirán su propio aporte de nuestro proceso de Sínodo diocesano para agregar a la discusión. Esta primera etapa debe realizarse en un marco de tiempo oportuno durante los próximos meses y completarse a fines del verano o principios del otoño.

A principios del otoño de este año, estará disponible para el equipo central, así como para todos los fieles de la diócesis, un informe completo de la demografía de nuestra diócesis, incluidas las poblaciones religiosas y católicas. El Centro de Investigación Aplicada al Apostolado (CARA) será la fuente de esta investigación. La etapa dos, sin duda, enriquecerá las conversaciones locales a medida que el proceso Uno – Santo – Católico – Apostólico se fusiona con la demografía actual y las proyecciones futuras basadas en la investigación.

Brevemente, la tercera etapa a principios del próximo año serán reuniones de decanato en las seis regiones de nuestra diócesis para desarrollar una síntesis que capte mejor la realidad de nuestra diócesis en cada región.

Durante la cuarta etapa en la primavera de 2024, un equipo central diocesano y yo tendremos la oportunidad de examinar y tomar en serio todo lo que proviene de los seis decanatos.

Por la gracia de Dios, una carta pastoral será el buen fruto de este proceso que será “lámpara a nuestros pies y lumbrera en nuestro camino” (Salmo 119:105) para la reinvención y planificación pastoral.

Estoy entusiasmado con las posibilidades de este esfuerzo diocesano, y que el Señor prospere el trabajo de nuestros corazones y mentes y nos conceda un año de favor en el espíritu de Pentecostés.

(En Pentecostés, los cuatro videos de la serie diocesana “Reinvención Pastoral” estarán disponibles en el canal de youtube de la Diocesis de Jackson, en Inglés y Español, @CatholicDioceseofJackson)